Once someone develops tolerance to a drug, they may be more likely to combine drugs in order to achieve the desired effects. While abusing two drugs at once will almost always guarantee some type of high, it also increases the risks of negative side effects.
Polydrug use, or the combination of drugs, is a common practice among those who abuse drugs recreationally and those suffering from addiction. The combination of a psychomotor stimulant (meth) with an opioid (heroin), also called “speedball”, is reported to produce greater effects than when one drug is used on its own.
The original psychomotor stimulant in the speedball combination was cocaine. However, in recent years, the popularity of methamphetamine has grown, and it is now being increasingly abused with opioids.
Using Heroin With Methamphetamine: A Dangerous Combination
Using heroin and methamphetamine together is dangerous because each drug has the ability to mask the effects of the other. Like other opioids, heroin slows parts of the brain, while meth stimulates and works to increase brain activity.
The masking effect can make it difficult to tell if a person is experiencing an overdose. Potentially lethal overdoses can occur if one of the drugs is taken in a larger dose than the other or if one substance naturally lasts longer in the body.
For example, heroin slows breathing while meth may increase it, making a person feel as if they were breathing normally. This can make it difficult to tell when the heroin dose has exceeded the person’s tolerance. When this happens, it can result in overdose effects and possibly death.
The reverse can also happen because the effects of meth usually last longer than the effects of heroin. Heroin will work to decrease heart rate, but as it wears off, meth can dramatically increase heart rate, which can lead to sudden heart arrhythmia, stroke and potential heart failure.
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Physical And Psychological Effects Of Mixing Heroin With Methamphetamine
Although there have been limited studies on the chemical reactions of heroin and meth, both physical and psychological effects have been observed. These effects can include:
- intense, euphoric rush
- normal to increased breathing rate
- feelings of relaxation and loss of inhibitions
- increased heart rate
The effects felt when these drugs are taken together depend on a few different factors. These factors include the purity of each of the substances (determines potency), the amount of each substance and the genetic makeup and tolerance of the individual taking them.
According to a study, the effects of the combination are time-dependent, with the most potent interaction happening around 30 to 60 minutes after intravenous administration.
Effects Of Methamphetamine
Abusing methamphetamine on its own can be dangerous. Misusing meth comes with a host of short- and long-term effects and can result in a three- to 15-day period of no sleep or food, referred to as “tweaking.”
Possible side effects of methamphetamine abuse include:
- paranoia and anxiety
- increased physical activity
- loss of appetite
- unpredictable behavior
- performing meaningless and repetitive tasks
- seizures and sudden death
Long-term abuse of meth has also been linked to damaged nerve terminals in the brain and brain damage that resembles Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. Abusing meth chronically can also result in changes in personality, such as psychotic behavior, violence and auditory hallucinations and delusions.
Effects Of Heroin
The immediate effects of heroin abuse can be felt anywhere from seven seconds to 15 minutes after use, depending on the method of use (injecting, snorting, smoking). These effects include a surge of euphoria, followed by a period of alternating wakeful and drowsy states.
Other possible effects of heroin abuse include:
- dry mouth
- severely decreased respiratory rate
- nausea and vomiting
- severe itching
- inability to concentrate
Repeated misuse of heroin may also result in collapsed veins (injection), infection of the lining of the heart, liver disease and lung-related complications (smoking).
Treatment For Polydrug Abuse
Addiction treatment should be comprehensive and account for all aspects that make up an individual’s life and their unique circumstances. No two people experience addiction the same way, and the recovery process becomes unique with the addition of a second substance.
Those who suffer from polydrug addiction need help healing from two seperate disorders at the same time. Because each addiction, or substance use disorder, has its own symptoms, side effects and treatment methods, it is best to consult an addiction specialist for guidance.
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- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health — Powerful Behavioral Interactions Between Methamphetamine and Morphine